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Long Beach agrees to study removing breakwater to clean polluted beaches

June 19, 2008|Deborah Schoch | Times Staff Writer

The Long Beach City Council has hired an engineering firm to study the effects of removing or reshaping part of a massive breakwater that shields the city's pollution-plagued beaches from ocean surf.

Surfers and environmentalists are cheering the Tuesday night vote, saying that the World War II-era breakwater prevents waves from cleansing the coastal sands. They have long lobbied city and federal agencies to launch a serious study of tearing down the breakwater's easternmost segment or lowering it so waves can wash over it.

The 2 1/2 -mile segment lies directly offshore from the city's beaches. It was built between 1941 and 1949 to shield ships of the U.S. Navy, which left the city in 1997.

"It was built for the Navy, the Navy left and let's get rid of it," said Robert Palmer, chairman of the Long Beach chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, a national environmental group.

But that's easier said than done. The breakwater is federal property, overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers, which cannot launch its own study without congressional approval, corps spokesman Greg Fuderer said.

Long Beach officials plan to prepare an initial study to help determine if the federal government would back a full-scale feasibility study, which could cost $3 million to $5 million.

The council voted 6 to 2 to hire Moffatt and Nichols Engineers for up to $100,000 to conduct the preliminary study. The Coastal Conservancy will pay half the cost if the corps agrees to review the study when it is complete.


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